Cambridgeshire soldiers among those tackling the heat of Kenya at special training camp

SOLDIERS from Cambridgeshire are among those being put through their paces in the heat and dust of Kenya.

1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment is halfway through the six-week long Exercise Askari Thunder, taking place at the British Army’s training ranges at Archer’s Post.

As well as the battalion’s 600 soldiers, the exercise includes medics, logistics, engineers and artillery that provide specialist support to the infantry. A company of soldiers from the Kenyan Army is also taking part.

The training aims to hone the basic skills of the soldiers in the challenging environment and terrain of Kenya, with temperatures edging towards 40 degrees and wildlife roaming the vast range.

The exercise places the troops as part of a multinational coalition operating in a disputed area on the border of two fictional nations called Jela and Sortu, which are divided by economic, cultural and religious factors.

Sortu has invaded Jela and the regiment has been tasked to drive back Sortu forces, bring stability to the area and provide security for local people.

Lieutenant Colonel Mick Aston MC, the regiment’s commanding officer, said: “This is the hardest training I have ever done in 23 years in the Army.

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“Kenya provides a really demanding and harsh environment, which offers a lot that is not available in the UK.

“The temperatures and the harsh terrain wear soldiers down fairly quickly, and you really have to fight on through it.

“As well as the conditions, the tactical challenges set in the training ranges and the expeditionary nature of it tests every element of the battle group.

“It helps us understand our collective limits and ensures we have the foundations to build from to prepare for whatever is asked of us.”

Lt Col Aston highlighted the benefits individual soldiers gain from the training, which includes live firing and tactical exercises using laser simulation equipment.

He said: “This exercise is developing the maturity and perspective of our soldiers. Many are new to the battalion and are uncertain about what to expect.

“After this training they will be more confident and aware of their abilities, as well as the challenges they will face.

“It’s also great to be working alongside the Kenyan Army, with their knowledge of the bush and how to survive and move through it invaluable.

“Some of our guys have never left the UK before, and to bring them here to the middle of Africa and have them partnered up with Kenyan soldiers who only speak Swahili is a fantastic learning experience.”

The exercise culminates in a week-long operation for the whole battle group to clear and stabilise a number of villages, with Kenyan people employed to provide a civilian population for soldiers to interact with.

Afterwards soldiers enjoy a period of adventurous training, with climbing Mount Kenya, whitewater rafting and safari trips planned.

Lt Col Aston said: “There is immense value in putting guys in difficult and demanding situations together outside the military environment.

“It is also only right that, after 30 days of hard training, the guys get some well-deserved and hard-earned downtime.”

Among those taking part in the exercise is Private Daniel Peck from Cambridge. Pte Peck went to Netherhall School and has been in the Army for a year.

The 20-year-old said: “This is my first overseas exercise and I’m really enjoying it.

“The live firing ranges have tested us tactically, while we’re working in really hot and arduous conditions. I’ve been exhausted at the end of every day, but you just get up and on with it the next morning.

“Having the wildlife almost taking part in the exercise is amazing. We have been chased by elephants and seen giraffes and zebras.”

At the end of the exercise, Pte Peck’s company are scaling Mount Kenya.

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